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Donald Kraybill

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  Donald B. Kraybill (born 1946) is an author, lecturer, and educator on Anabaptist faiths and living. Kraybill is widely recognized for his studies on Anabaptist groups, and is the foremost living expert on the Old Order Amish.
Kraybill is Distinguished College Professor, and Senior Fellow at the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. He previously served as chair of the Sociology and Social Work Department at Elizabethtown from 1979 to 1985 and as director of the Young Center from 1989 to 1996. He was provost of Messiah College (PA) from 1996 to 2002, before returning to Elizabethtown College in 2003.

Current and recent projects

In October 2005, Young Center was awarded a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for a three-year collaborative research project entitled "Amish Diversity and Identity: Transformations in 20th Century America." In addition to Kraybill as senior investigator, the investigative team includes Steven Nolt, Professor of History at Goshen College in Indiana, and Karen Johnson-Weiner, Professor of Anthropology at the State University of New York at Potsdam. A national panel of seven scholars advised the research team throughout the project.
The NEH grant enabled the researchers to investigate the Amish experience at the national level, giving attention to geographic expansion, the growth of diversity, changing conceptions of identity and evolving patterns of interaction with the larger society. The team also explored how the Amish have contributed to shaping the identity of a nation that made exceptions in the areas of education, Social Security, and child labor for a religious minority living on its cultural margins. The project resulted in a website (; an international conference, The Amish in America: New Identities and Diversities, held in 2007; and a book, The Amish.
Recent book projects include Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy (Jossey-Bass, 2007), a discussion of the Amish response to the school shooting at Nickel Mines, and The Amish Way: Patient Faith in a Perilous World (Jossey-Bass, 2010), an exploration of Amish spiritual life and practices, both with coauthors Steven M. Nolt and David L. Weaver-Zercher. Kraybill also authored Concise Encyclopedia of Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010), which provides basic information about these four Anabaptist groups in North America, and coauthored (with Karen M. Johhson-Weiner and Steven M. Nolt) The Amish, a comprehensive description and analysis of Amish life and culture.
Kraybill's most recent work has been related to five beard-cutting attacks on Amish people in eastern Ohio in the fall of 2011, which led to the arrests of sixteen members of a maverick Amish community in Bergholz, Ohio. Kraybill assisted federal prosecutors in understanding Amish beliefs and practices and served as an expert witness at the federal trial in 2012. He wrote a book about the attacks, investigation, trial, and aftermath: Renegade Amish: Beard Cutting, Hate Crimes, and the Trial of the Bergholz Barbers. In August 2014, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the hate crimes convictions, a ruling that generated much response.
Kraybill was selected to research and write a centennial history of Eastern Mennonite University, his alma mater, that was published in 2017.

Educator and author

Kraybill is the author or editor of more than 18 books and dozens of professional articles and popular articles. His books have been translated into six different languages and his research on Anabaptist groups has been featured in magazines and newspapers, and on radio and television programs across the United States and in many foreign countries.
Kraybill writes almost exclusively on the groups within the Anabaptist faith such as the Mennonites, Amish, and Bruderhof. In addition to academic books — largely published by Johns Hopkins University Press — he also writes popular books sold in gift shops to tourists, interested in learning more about the plain sects. He is one of two experts — the other being D. Holmes Morton — frequently quoted by reporters to give background to news stories involving the Amish. He also served as a consultant for the PBS show The American Experience series The Amish.
{{quoteBecause they don't have television or Internet in their homes or Volvos or even pickup trucks in their driveways, the Amish are easily mistaken for Luddites. But they are not anti-technology. Peer into Amish society and you'll see state-of-the-art LED lights, rollerblades, gas grills, solar panels, and battery-powered hand tools. The Amish use technology selectively. They spurn technologies that they fear will ruin their community and its religious values: television, cars, computers, etc. However, they readily accept and invent new technologies (such as a wheel-driven alternator to recharge the batteries on their buggies) that they think will enhance the well-being of their society. Moreover, many Amish "engineers" adapt mainstream technology to fit within their moral values. They strip electric motors from large sanders and replace them with pneumatic motors to provide "Amish electricity" in furniture shops, for example. One thing is certain: Amish people spend much more time than the rest of us assessing the long-term impact of new technologies on human relationships.From Fake Amish and the Real Ones


  • 1976 Ph.D., Temple University
  • 1971 M.A., Temple University
  • 1967 B.A., Eastern Mennonite University


  • Our Star-Spangled Faith, 1976.
  • Puzzles of Amish Life, 1990.
  • Old Order Amish: Their Enduring Way of Life (with Lucian Niemeyer), 1993.
  • The Amish Struggle With Modernity (Co-edited with Marc Alan Olshan), 1994.
  • The Riddles of Human Society (with Conrad L. Kanagy), 1999.
  • The Riddle of Amish Culture, 2001.
  • Anabaptist World USA (with C. Nelson Hostetter), 2001.
  • On the Backroad to Heaven: Old Order Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren (co-author: Carl Bowman), 2001.
  • The Upside-Down Kingdom, 2003.
  • The Amish: Why They Enchant Us, 2003.
  • Who Are the Anabaptists: Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites, 2003.
  • The Amish and the State, 2003.
  • Amish Enterprise: From Plows to Profits (with Steven M. Nolt), 2004.
  • Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy (with Steven M. Nolt and David L. Weaver-Zercher), 2007. .
  • The Amish of Lancaster County (with photography by Daniel Rodriguez), 2008. .
  • The Amish Way: Patient Faith in a Perilous World (with Steven M. Nolt and David L. Weaver-Zercher), 2010. .
  • Concise Encyclopedia of Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites, 2010. .
  • The Amish (with Karen M Johnson-Weiner and Steven M Nolt), 2013 .
  • Renegade Amish: Beard Cutting, Hate Crimes, and the Trial of the Bergholz Amish, 2014. .

Category:American Mennonites
Category:American sociologists
Category:Temple University alumni
Category:Eastern Mennonite University alumni
Category:Mennonite writers
Category:Living people
Category:People from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
Category:Elizabethtown College faculty
Category:Messiah University
Category:1946 births

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